26 July 2002

Bigger baconers lift profits

By Andrew Swallow

TAKING pigs for bacon on an extra 15kg is boosting margin/ pig sold by about £7/head for one Scottish producer and its benefiting the processor too.

"We were taking our pigs to 75kg, but now everything goes at 85-90kg," says Iain Davidson of Moss-side Farm, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeen-shire. "At £1/kg that is an extra £15 income for an extra cost of just £8. It is a better way of increasing our production than keeping more sows."

A contract with Grampian Country Pork, which processes the larger animals, has been crucial to Mr Davidsons increase in finished weight. After a trial batch of 300 at the heavier weight in February, now all baconers from Moss-side go to Grampians Buckie plant at 85-90kg.

"It is good for them and it is good for us. If we are £6-7/head better off then they will be £6-7 better off too."

Grampians national production manager Jim Davidson says the company is hand-picking producers with lean genotype herds to take pigs on to heavier weights.

"We are taking a few hundred a week at present, only a small proportion of the Buckie intake, but it is growing. By next spring we hope half our suppliers will be on the heavier contracts and we are looking at offering contracts to suppliers at some of our other plants.

"But producers need to be aware that there is a three-week negative cashflow period initially and that there is a considerable spend involved," he says.

Iain Davidson has invested in a new building at Moss-side to house the extra pigs, but with 6000 or so pigs/year reared to the heavier weight from the 280-sow herd, he calculates the investment will soon pay for itself.

Both men reckon the move will make UK bacon more competitive with Continental producers, who have been taking bacon animals to these heavier weights for some time.

Bigger joints from the hips of the animals present a marketing challenge, but with a change in butchering two good cuts are now being produced.

"It is a win-win situation, if we can crack the butchery issues," says Jim Davidson. "We have the genotypes in the country to do it, all we need is producers who can provide the right growing environment and have good quality breeding stock."

Iain Davidson spends £15-£1800 on top boars for his 25% Duroc Newsham/JSR sows and has had no problem keeping the 90kg baconers within the top 14mm backfat grade. "We have always used lean boars anyway and if anything our pigs were grading too well before."

Pigs are fed the same soya, fishmeal, barley and mineral finisher ration used to 75kg, although some producers could make a saving by switching to a cheaper finisher, says Jim Davidson. &#42

Iain Davidsons investment in a new finishing house should be repaid by his move to bigger baconers.

&#8226 Needs lean genotypes.

&#8226 Invest in extra space.

&#8226 Win-win for industry long-term.